Ancient genomes illuminate Eastern Arabian population history and adaptation against malaria

kingjohn

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Abstract​

The harsh climate of Arabia has posed challenges in generating ancient DNA from the region, hindering the direct examination of ancient genomes for understanding the demographic processes that shaped Arabian populations. In this study, we report whole genome sequence data obtained from four Tylos-period individuals from Bahrain. Their genetic ancestry can be modelled as a mixture of sources from ancient Anatolia, Levant and Iran/Caucasus, with variation between individuals suggesting population heterogeneity in Bahrain before the onset of Islam. We identify the G6PD Mediterranean mutation associated with malaria-resistance in three out of four ancient Bahraini samples and estimate that it rose in frequency in Eastern Arabia from 5-6 kya onwards, around the time agriculture appeared in the region. Our study provides the first characterisation of the genetic composition of ancient Arabians, shedding light on the population history of Bahrain and demonstrating the feasibility of aDNA studies in the region.

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